Aspartame and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Before you reach for that diet soft drink, you may want to rethink what is in that beverage.  The sugar substitute aspartame, used in most diet soft drinks does not in fact help in weight loss and there is mounting evidence that it may actually cause weight gain.  More important to someone with rheumatoid arthritis, aspartame may cause inflammation and joint pain.

According to Woodrow C. Monte, PhD., Director of the Food Science and Nutrition Laboratory at Arizona State University, “when aspartmae is metabolized, it releases methyl alcohol (wood alcohol), a known toxin that is highly dangerous to humans.” Dr. Monte warns that “once in your cells, methyl alcohol converts to formaldehyde, a cancer-causing agent.  Recent studies in Europe suggest that aspartame consumption can result in the accumulation of formaldehyde in the brain damaging the central nervous system and the immune system.

Aspartame is found not only in diet products.  It can also be found in cough medicine, toothpaste and even some sports drinks and juice drinks.

Aspartame has been linked to several autoimmune diseases including lupus, fibromyalgia, multiple sclorosis and rheumatoid arthritis even at low doses.  It has been tied to migranes, chronic fatigue, asthma,  diabetes,tinnitis and depression.

According to the Aspartme Information Center, aspartame is approved by the US Food and Drug Adminstration and the Joint Expert Committe on Food Adititives of the World Health Organization. It is consumed in over 6,000 products and by 200 million people worldwide.  It is found in everything from cough medicine to soft drinks.

For me personally, I would rather err of the side of caution and avoid aspertame. My body has gone through enough turmoil. I want to nourish with food that will aid in healing and avoid ingesting anything that may potentially cause harm. You make up your own mind.

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11 thoughts on “Aspartame and Rheumatoid Arthritis

  1. Wren

    Hi Jo-Ann. I recently switched from aspertame sweetener in my coffee to Splenda after my husband warned me (for the 50th time) about the many “dangers” of aspertame. With all due respect to you and to him, however, I have to take exception to this post. I did a little research on my own, since it seemed odd to me that a substance so widely used could be so poisonous and yet be kept on the market for over 30 years. It just didn’t compute, you know?

    So I decided to check out, the respected group that debunks myths and lies that circulate around the Internet. Their conclusion was that the “aspertame is poison” assertation is an urban myth. It’s just not true. You can check out their conclusion and links to credible sites that back up that conclusion by visiting

    I also disagree with your statement that aspertame doesn’t help people lose weight, but instead may even make them gain weight. This is also not true. By replacing sugar in the diet you do, indeed, remove one of the major causes of weight gain. Sugar is an empty calorie that upsets insulin production in the body, which along with makes diabetes a threat, also signals the body to store more fat. So sugar itself is a real cause of weight gain and prevents loss of weight.

    If aspertame (and other artificial sweeteners) is a problem in weight gain, it is because by adding it to foods that would otherwise not be sweet, we perpetuate our craving for the sweet taste of sugar. We’d all be better off to simply not sweeten things but instead switch to foods and drinks that are naturally sweet.

    Since switching to Splenda and getting accustomed to the slightly different flavor, I’ve decided to keep using it for my coffee and tea. But I’m not going to worry about aspertame in other foods and, if I go to a restaurant that doesn’t offer Splenda, I’m not going to worry about it.

    Thanks for a great blog. You’ve posted some very interesting and helpful material here, and as someone who deals with the problems caused by RA every day, I’m interested in learning as much as I can about the disease and about ways to lessen its effect on me. So I’m grateful for your efforts. Keep up the good work, but please research a little more before posting something like this aspertame myth. It does no one any good.

  2. Jo-Ann Colburn Post author

    Well Wren,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I do appreciate your input. I wrote this post a while ago and I hesitated to post it for a while because I know that this subject is a controversial one. I decided to post it because I figure that people can make up their own minds as to what they choose to put into their own bodies.

    I do however completely disagree with you and I have done my research. Studies have shown that people that use artificial sweeteners tend to crave more sugar or sweets in their diets and because of this tend to gain more weight. There is plenty of research out there to support this. On the topic of the by-product of metabolized aspertame, I have read the research on both sized of the argument and there is no way that you will convince me that this is something that I would knowingly want to put into my body.

    I think that everyone has to make the choice for themselves what they want to put into their bodies. There is no way that you are going to convince me that an artificial anything is better than a natural solution. That is what I feel is best for me and my body. It is an individual choice.

  3. Wren

    Hi Jo-Ann,

    I totally agree with you that sweeteners only perpetuate a craving for sweets, so in some people they certainly can cause weight gain. But that’s for all sweeteners, artificial or otherwise. I said as much in the fourth paragraph of my initial comment.

    I absolutely respect your decision not to use artificial substances in your body. I, too, am concerned about the many different, mostly hidden chemicals in our foods, and what illnesses they may be causing. To that end I do my best not to eat processed foods but cook my meals using fresh ingredients. I also stay away from most forms of sugar, including white flour and rice, which metabolize into sugar in our bodies. Instead I eat whole grain breads, pastas and brown rice.

    While I don’t agree with you about aspertame, I do agree that we should all be mindful and careful about what we put into our bodies. In the end, as you’ve said, this is an individual choice. And most of us with RA certainly want to do everything we can to fight the disease, including eating mindfully.

    Thanks for posting my comment and for replying.

  4. Jo-Ann Colburn Post author

    You are most welcome Wren,

    I think that many good things come from discussion regardless of whether or not we agree. I am grateful for your comments and your interest in the blog.

  5. Cathy

    Jo-Ann, I was happy to see this post. For the last five years I have tried to avoid all artificial sweeteners, colors and additives. (It can be tricky since they are hidden in everything.) I have done a lot of research on foods in the last five years and my conclusion is that when we start adding artificial anything to our bodies, there is trouble. I figure, “why add anything else that could harm my body when it hurts so much already?” This topic may be controversial, but I am glad you posted it.



  7. darlene

    Splenda is Toxic too. Stevia is safe to use. By the way for anyone who thinks Snopes is the all mighty authority to what is true or not….do you know that snopes is run by a husband and wife and they are liberals. They do NOT know everything and what they post is slanted to their own beliefs.

  8. John Coiner

    I had severe joint inflammation from Aspartame and got off it when I realized what it was doing to me. However I still had a lot of inflammation and arthritis until I realized that when I ate whole grains such as whole wheat bread or oatmeal I hurt. The Aspartame had changed my body chemistry so that I am now allergic to methyl cellulose. I also found Aspartame in the flavored barium sulfate they use for xrays and scans.

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